Parents may be forced to pay extra to allow their children to take sandwiches into school, after Caerphilly County Borough Council proposed plans to introduce a “sandwich tax”.
In documents obtained by Plaid Cymru, proposals suggest charging each primary school in the borough approximately £2,200 to cover the cost of catering staff clearing up after pupils who take sandwiches.
An impact assessment report prepared by council officers says the charge covers the setting out and clearing away of places for pupils eating their own sandwiches, and “disposing of any subsequent waste”.
The charges will be based on actual sandwich take-up of pupils per school, but could amount to as much as £174,000 across the borough.
South Wales East AM Lindsay Whittle, who is a a councillor and a former council leader, said: “School budgets are already under pressure, so it seems likely that this charge will be passed on to parents by many schools or pupils even banned from bringing lunches in.
“Many children take sandwiches because they prefer them. While some parents, although working, do not qualify for free school meals for their children, they give them sandwiches because they can’t afford to pay for meals.
“Schools and parents should not be penalised. This is a daft idea and should be abandoned now. We’ve had the Tories’ bedroom tax and pasty tax, now the Labour-run council wants to impose the sandwich tax. It’s not on.”
Caerphilly Council say they do not intend the charge to be passed onto parents.
However, schools are warned that they will have to make alternative arrangements if they choose not to pay the new charges.
Officers write in the report: “Schools may choose to make their own arrangements for setting out and clearing away sandwich places, in which case the Catering Service will be able to reduce staffing hours and still realise the saving identified.”
The council’s catering service currently provides a free school meals service in 75 primary schools across Caerphilly County Borough.
The report also notes that the introduction of a “sandwich tax” could force more pupils to have school lunches: “This proposal could lead to pupils losing the option of bringing sandwiches meals to school and have the potential to increase school lunch take up.”
A council spokesperson said: “This is one of a number of proposals put forward for consideration as the council looks to make in excess of £9 million savings for 2016/17.
“It is important to emphasise that in setting the budget for 2016/17, the council has made a commitment to meeting the schools pledge, which will in fact see an additional cash growth of £1.9m for county borough schools.
“Indeed, throughout the council’s budget setting process, schools continue to be the most protected service area financially.
“Extensive consultation on this proposal has been conducted with head teachers and there is certainly no intention that any financial impact would be passed onto parents, or that the service would cease to be provided by schools.”